The bookstore scene in Greater Lansing will turn a new page with its latest addition: Hooked, which will function as bookstore, coffee shop, and wine bar all-in-one. The owners, Matt Grossman and Sarah Reckhow, who are also political science professors at Michigan State University, have visions to make the store a place for community-building and meeting friends.
The 3,000-square-foot space will be located on the ground-floor of the new Red Cedar Development Project on East Michigan Avenue, just over the west border of East Lansing. That puts the shop on Lansing’s Eastside, right near East Lansing’s Chesterfield Hills neighborhood.
Grossman and Reckhow met while in grad school at UC Berkeley and have talked about opening a coffee shop and wine bar since they moved to East Lansing in 2007. Memories of the places they used to visit in the Bay Area in California, combined with finding relatively fewer independent coffee shops in the Lansing area, inspired the couple.
“When we first got to this area, there were not nearly as many coffee shops,” Reckhow said. “There was no Strange Matter, Blue Owl, or Foster Coffee, primarily there was just Biggby.”
In 2018 and 2019, the pair took a sabbatical in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“We really loved the bookstore scene there, especially the way the bookstore would have so many events and talks,” said Reckhow. “So, it wasn’t just the retail aspect of the books, but the community-focused aspect.”
Upon returning to East Lansing, the two found that the local bookstore scene was getting smaller. Barnes & Noble in downtown East Lansing had long been closed, and Schuler Books left Eastwood Towne Center.
“We were missing the bookstores that had existed when we first moved here,” Reckhow said. “So when we came back from the sabbatical in 2019, our idea evolved into an idea of a combined bookstore and cafe, offering both coffee and wine. We started to act on the idea. Matt did a small business development program at LCC [Lansing Community College]. We worked on the business plan, the pandemic happened, and we continued working on it.”
The cafe will serve Intelligentsia Coffee from Chicago in addition to bread, baked goods, and pastries from Stone Circle Bakehouse, located in Holt. The menu will include toasts, charcuterie boards, a kids snack board, and dessert boards too. Charcuterie boards will come with cheese, meat, crackers, olives, and veggie options.
“We hope to have near-daily events that would span from everything from having what people traditionally think of as bookstore events with authors coming in to give talks about their books, to hosting book clubs,” Reckhow said.
“We’ll have a community table. People can enjoy coffee, wine, or food. We’ll also create in-store book clubs around different book genres, themes, and interests, so it will also be an opportunity for people to meet folks in the community, if they’re wanting to join other people who want to read the same kind of books,” she explained
Hooked plans to host coffee and wine tastings, children’s book readings, kids book clubs, and even host MSU community members in relation to current affairs and state politics.
Reckhow recalls how it felt to move to the area, after being hired at MSU, and not knowing anyone. She hopes the new business can become a go-to meeting place in the area.
“The goal is to be a community space, where people want to gather and meet other people,” she said. “We want to facilitate that, and also open to new ways of doing that we haven’t even thought of yet.”
“The pandemic has been on our minds throughout the process of conceiving this idea,” Reckhow pointed out. “I think the flipside to the fact that we’re still dealing with it, is that people really want to connect and engage again. There’s been a lot of social isolation that has come with this time, and breaking out of that social isolation and reconnecting is really important. We are kind of looking forward to being a space where people can do that.”
The general interest bookstore will be able to stock about 10,000 books across all the main genres of fiction, nonfiction, kids’ books, as well as works on food, wine, current events, and public affairs.
“We will feature Michigan books and books of local interests and events, and will feature all the book club selections,” Reckhow said. “Probably what’s most unique compared to other area bookstores, is we will have a selection of university-press books, kind of in line with being right here, close to MSU.”
Over the past year, more local bookstores and pop-up shops have added to the area’s growing literary scene, something Reckhow is happy to see.
“I think it’s a great sign that folks in this community want to buy their books locally, and want to support local bookstores, so I think it’s fantastic,” she said. “If you think about other communities that have a large university, it’s pretty typical to have multiple independent bookstores, so I feel like we’re just kind of catching up again to where I hope we can be, where having a vibrant scene of multiple, independent local booksellers is where we want to be.”
In the meantime, the store’s website does have books available for online purchase, a fundraiser, a holiday coffee package, and monthly coffee bean club. The business is also looking to hire employees for the anticipated April grand opening.
Hooked is set to be located at 3142 East Michigan Avenue, Suite F, in Lansing.